Wholesome fitness

Tags: Good Living
Wholesome fitness
I wonder how many of us confuse our capabilities in the gym with real life strength. Let me illustrate the point I am trying to make. It is very possible that you have a great workout at the gym every day or every other day as might be the case. You may have reached a point where you are bench-pressing more weight than ever before, or lifting almost your body weight. But when you happen to be carrying a 25 kg suitcase downstairs, you end up hurting your lower back. So what does that tell you?

It does not mean you are not strong enough to lift 25 kg, it means you’re not paying enough attention to your functional fitness. You might have good definition in terms of musculature, but are you ready to lift that suitcase, lift up a chest of drawers or put a mineral water bottle onto the dispenser?

Functional fitness and functional exercise are the latest buzzwords in the world of fitness. They focus on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealised posture created by a gym machine. Simply put, functional training is about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently as is done with conventional weight training. In functional fitness, most of the time, you should be standing on your own two feet and supporting your own weight when you lift anything.

The first step is to teach your body to control and balance its own weight. Start with simple movements, like the one-legged squat, and other balance exercises. Then try standing on one leg on a step-stool that’s, perhaps, eight inches high, and then lower the heel of your other foot to the ground, while controlling your body weight as you go down and back up. Switch sides during each manoeuvre to promote balance and muscle integration on either side of your body. Once you can control and balance your own body weight, then you can start working with added weights. Place a two kg dumbbell on a level chair, and then perform the same one-legged squat, but this time, pick up the dumbbell as you come up, after that pick up the same weight from the ground while doing the squat. That’s challenging your total body integration, and teaching the upper body to work with the lower body.

So should you abandon the weight machines at the gym for a programme that’s all about free weights and balance? Not necessarily. Functional training and giving importance to proper posture and form can help you get more out of your conventional training as well, and is a big boost to your sporting capabilities especially in terms of avoiding sporting injuries.

Once you get your body ‘functionally strong’, you will see its impact in all spheres of your activity, both in terms of work and recreation. Over the next few weeks, we will get into functional training in greater detail to get your body stronger, functional and physiologically more efficient and I am sure it will lead to an overall improvement in the quality of your life.

(The author is a wellness expert and runs a fitness centre in New Delhi)

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